Mama says

“You are too loud with your protests of various injustices

in between the bruised knees

of your brother and your sister’s suitors,

I don’t have the time to devote to your


I slip on my sneakers to keep from crying

I slip into my sneakers to keep from crying

amidst the chicken-stew smell emanating from the kitchen

And the hustle and bustle of my brother’s entrance

he tugs my hair without warning but before

I can gather the wit to smack him to jupiter and beyond, mama turns around,

wooden spoon in hand

daring me to lay hands on this creature who never fails to remind me of his

two year seniority

thinking of the sword of Damocles I skip

out past the stoop, by the girls playing double dutch

“Red Hot Pepper in the Pot,

Who’s got more than the leader’s got?

one, two…”

these girls who never invite me,

turn their heads at my obvious curiosity

and my dirty reeboks this is nike territory

one of them asks,

why are your elbows so ashy?

accusation in her tone and bone straight hair

edges smoothed down with vaseline, all their smiles too gleaming and mean

for my knotted kinks that leave traces in the sink when I comb them out

why are your elbows so ashy?

thinking of the sword of Damocles, I skip past the sidewalk

my scuffed shoes scuffing the rainbow chalk of hopscotch,

hearts with phrases such as: billy loves dee dee, etc. etc

into the corner store’s air-conditioning

the asian clerk doesn’t look up behind her

soap opera digest

I jingle my pocket change before picking the

coldest cherry coke from the front of the back freezer

The she says “fifty cents”

she watches my counting


one coin slips behind the counter

I mumble some “sorries”,

before either of us notice the masked men

who come in fast and tell her

“empty the cash register!”